Substance Abuse: Dealing With Teen Substance Use
What is an Actionset?
Use of alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, and other drugs among adolescents is a major concern for parents. Preteens and teens are starting to use harmful and illegal substances at younger ages. Teen drinking, smoking, and drug use can affect general health, physical growth, emotional development, and school performance. You can recognize and respond to substance use by:
More information about alcohol and drug use problems can be found in the following topics:
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Test Your Knowledge
Answer the following questions to see whether you understand what teen substance abuse is.
All teens who experiment with alcohol or another drug become addicted to the substance.
After a teen becomes addicted, he or she completely loses control over his or her substance use.
Many parents believe that teen substance use is just part of growing up and is not a problem unless it "gets out of hand." It is true that most teens do not have problems after experimenting with alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or other drugs. But all substances abused by teens stimulate the part of the brain that regulates pleasure, memory, learning, and emotions. The effects cause changes in a teen's alertness, perceptions, movement, judgment, and attention, making the teen more likely to:
Teen substance use can progress from occasional use (experimenting) to regular or frequent use, abuse, or physical and/or psychological dependence (addiction). If dependence develops, the teen may have problems maturing, resulting in difficulty establishing personal identity, forming healthy relationships, gaining physical and emotional independence, and preparing for the future.
The most serious consequence of teen substance use is the risk of addiction. Teens are at high risk for early development of addiction, especially if they start using drugs at a young age. In adults, addiction to a substance usually develops slowly, but a teen may rapidly progress from occasional use to addiction. Alcohol dependency and drug dependency require treatment for the person to stop using the substance. Recognizing the risk factors and signs of substance use can help you deal with a problem early, reducing your teen's risk for becoming addicted.
Test Your Knowledge
Which of the following can be affected if a teen abuses substances?
Growth and maturity
The ability to learn and achieve success in school
Health and physical safety
You can recognize and deal with substance abuse in your teen by using the following techniques.
Is your teen using alcohol or drugs?
If you think your teen may be using substances, look for warning signs such as:
Has he or she experimented?
If you believe that your teen has begun experimenting with alcohol or other substances:
Is it "getting out of hand"?
Your teen may be having difficulties in school, at home, with relationships, or with the law related to substance use, indicating a substance abuse problem. If you think your teen is using any substance, including alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or other drugs—regularly or daily—don't ignore it. This use is serious and should not be denied or minimized. Frequent or regular use of a substance can quickly lead to physical or psychological dependence—or dependency may have already developed.
To help your teen:
Test Your Knowledge
If you think your teen only experimented with alcohol or other substances but doesn't have a problem, don't do anything.
If your teen is using a substance frequently or regularly, he or she probably has a substance abuse problem.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to recognize and deal with substance use in your teen.
Talk with a doctor
Talk with a doctor if you think your child or teen is using alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or other drugs. Ask for the doctor's help in dealing with your child or teen on this issue.
If you would like more information about alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, and other drug issues in young people, the following resource is available:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI): http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/.
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